what i learned from improv

i finished my level 1 improv class at IO West. here are some things i learned:

  • i need to listen more. and better. on day 1 we were taught the idea of “yes, and” where you agree with your partner and incorporate everything into the scene. in order to do that, you need to really listen. most of the things i learned apply to writing, but this one applies to just life in general.
  • in scenes, we tended to get caught up in the logistics of the situation, or the plot. sometimes people would try to make the situation wackier or more complicated. instead, we needed to focus on the characters, and what their relationship was.
  • it helps to start off the scene with a strong character choice, or point of view, or emotion. when i was performing a scene and my scene partner and i had made clear choices from the beginning, the scene just flowed and it was easy and natural. when i didn’t fully commit to an idea, it gave less for my partner to work with, and those scenes didn’t work.
  • the way IO West does improv, they aren’t focused on telling jokes. the comedy comes from the characters. there’s no need to try to think up the next joke, because you’re just reacting as a character.
  • the teacher always stressed specifics. it made things funnier.
  • one week we focused on starting a scene with a strong emotion, and having that emotion change during the course of a scene. when it worked, it was really great to watch.
  • scenes work better when the people are focused on what’s going on between them right there in the moment, not planning, or reminiscing.

so much of what i learned applies directly to writing. i wasn’t sure if i would continue on to level 2, because i had no intention of ever being a performer, but i decided to sign up for the level 2 class. i just had a lot of fun doing it and i feel like i’m learning so much, and learning in a different way than from a writing class or book.

i would definitely recommend an improv class for any writer, especially if you write comedy. and if you go to IO West, dave hill is an awesome teacher.

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